Anjan Dutt- A Profile in Music

Anjan-Dutta-at-the-Byomkesh-Bakshi-Bengali-Movie-premiereJuly11, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Anjan Dutt is a legendary figure in the history of post-modern Bengali music. His directorial films are mostly soaked in music. Musician, songwriter, singer, actor, theatre person, director Anjan Dutta has been through it all – obstacles, accolades, innovations, the works. Anjan’s schooling was in Darjeeling followed with Masters in English Literature from Calcutta University. His debut performance in Mrinal Sen’s Chaalchitra brought him the Best New Actor’s award at the Venice Film Festival many years ago. He later worked in Mrinal Sen’s Kharij, Aparna Sen’s Yugant and so on.

[ReviewAZON asin=”B004IURTY8″ display=”inlinepost”]Dutt’s films carry his signature. Apart from a rich and original music score, they have unusual storylines either rooted in a journey (Chalo Lets Go), or, on the feelings of the Bengali Diaspora in the US versus the mindset of the ‘native’ Bengali thrust into a different world (Bong Connection), or, zeroing in a particular ethnic group within the Bengali ambience in Kolkata (Bada Din, Bow Barracks Forever) and so on.  He revives an old hit of his from 1994 and shapes it into a mesmerizing film in his latest Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbona. An earlier film Madly Bangalee, an extension of a tele-serial directed by Dutt called Half Chocolate could be said to have been a precursor to Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbona. “It was about a team of young college students from diverse backgrounds struggling to form a good music band of their own and whether they succeed or fail” he explains.

When asked what motivated this new film he says, “The credit for the root idea goes to my producer Rana Sarkar who suggested I collect some of my songs and others of the early Nineties like compositions of Kabir Suman to capture the music of our times and make a film on the subject. I wrote a script around the music with this middle-aged man, a legend in Bengali Rock but not a nice person as a human being. As I consider the film to be partly autobiographical – around 30%, I decided to share the screen with my closest friends who have been with me from the beginning – Lew Hilt, Amyt Dutta and Nondon Bagchi. I requested Kabir Suman who I consider one of my spiritual mentors in music and he agreed.”

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Asked which of his avatars he would like to be identified with, his answer is, “I am not the multi-faceted person the media tries to present me as.  Satyajit Ray is perhaps the only person who is entitled to this description. I would like to call myself a film director and the rest of it would be a part of me. People know me better as a songwriter and musician than as an actor-director. I must confess that I have achieved greater success and earned more money within a shorter span of time from music than as an actor or director.” One wonders if he would be saying the same thing after Ranjana fills the box office coffers it possibly could though it is a niche, post-modern and very urban film.

About his annodharar gaan Dutt explains, “Indian music does not have the tradition of urban folk music that the West is known for. People like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon set the trend of the singer-songwriter with a cause. Their songs dealt with issues, crises, problems, and came to be known as urban folk songs. Popular Bengali or Hindi songs were purely for entertainment and were not a social activity. The singer-songwriter tradition had an agenda of social issues. These are modern, urban folk songs of the Nineties that speak about people, their lives, their problems, and the issues they face. Kabir Suman pioneered the movement in Bengal. Suman sang songs, which made social and political statements about happenings from Calcutta to Manipur. This made a lot of sense to me as a theatre person. It did not call for a strong classical tradition. All it needed was a guitar and some sense of music and rhythm.”

“I am grateful to Mrinal-da (Sen), specifically for his command over filming on pencil-slim budgets apart from the break he gave me as an actor. Among international filmmakers, I admire Won kar-wai, one of the best among the Fifth Generation Filmmakers from China and Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami and Majid Majidi,” he sums up.

-Shoma A. Chatterji

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